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Amidst Controversy, President Distributed 65th National Film Awards

Irani also hailed the noticeable presence of regional cinema and talent and also drew attention to how over 20 women were honoured at the stage.

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Iconic actress Sridevi was posthumously honoured at the 71st Cannes Film Festival. Filmmaker Subhash Ghai, who received the award on her behalf, says he felt honoured.
Sridevi gotthe TITAN Reginald F. Lewis Film Icon Award at 71st Cannes Film Festival. Wikimedia commons

Controversy marred the 65th National Film Awards ceremony here on Thursday with several awardees protesting against the whittling down of the number of those to be honoured by the President to a select 11.

Upset over breaking from the long-held tradition of the President giving away all the awards, around 60 awardees wrote to the Directorate of Film Festivals, President’s office and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, over the “discrimination”.

The name plates of the absentee winners were placed facing down at the Vigyan Bhawan, where several others from across the length and breadth of the country congregated to celebrate the diversity of India and Indian cinema.

Celebrated names like K.J. Yesudas and A.R. Rahman, apart from actors Riddhi Sen, Divya Dutta and Pankaj Tripathi and a host of others attended the gala.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore handed out the remainder of the 125 awards at the event, which was also devoid of a musical performance unlike every year.

Another posthumous honour went to Sridevi, whose powerful performance in her last film "Mom" fetched her the Best Actress Award. Her husband Boney Kapoor and two daughters -- Jahnvi and Khushi -- took the stage together to receive what was Sridevi's first National Award in a career of 50 years.
Boney Kapoor and daughter receiving Sridevi’s award from President, BollywoodCountry

The prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award — the country’s highest cinema honour — was given posthumously to Vinod Khanna, whose wife Kavita Khanna and son Akshaye Khanna received it. It was an “emotional and proud moment,” Akshaye said.

Another posthumous honour went to Sridevi, whose powerful performance in her last film “Mom” fetched her the Best Actress Award. Her husband Boney Kapoor and two daughters — Jahnvi and Khushi — took the stage together to receive what was Sridevi’s first National Award in a career of 50 years.

President Ram Nath Kovind, who joined the ceremony in the latter half, said: “We will miss them forever… More than just box office successes, they tugged at our hearts and captured our emotions.”

He said India’s strength lies in its diversity, and cinema celebrates it by having a unifying voice which transcends regions. He spoke about the “transformational times for cinema” and how “India is gaining traction as a filmmaking destination”.

Irani also hailed the noticeable presence of regional cinema and talent and also drew attention to how over 20 women were honoured at the stage.

All the officials who took to the mike thanked the President for his presence. However, the question many were left with after this edition of the ceremony, is why all the winners were not felicitated by the President.

In the letter, the protesting awardees said they felt “dejected rather than honoured” for their work.

It was on Wednesday that the awardees were informed that a large segment of the awards will not be presented by the President. They discussed the matter with Irani the same evening and were promised a reply.

"...We are disheartened to know that we will be deprived of the honour of this appreciation of a once-in-a-lifetime moment of pride and glory that the National Film Awards had promised us."
Smriti Irani, Information and Broadcasting Minister- wikimedia commons

“In the circumstance of not receiving a response for our grievance, we are left with no option but to be absent for the ceremony. We do not intend to boycott the award, but are not attending the ceremony to convey our discontent…

“It feels like a breach of trust when an institution/ceremony that abides by extreme protocol, fails to inform of such a vital aspect of the ceremony with prior notice. It seems unfortunate that 65 years of tradition are being overturned in a jiffy.

“…We are disheartened to know that we will be deprived of the honour of this appreciation of a once-in-a-lifetime moment of pride and glory that the National Film Awards had promised us.”

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The President handed over the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Nargis Dutt Award for Feature Films on National Integration, Best Book on Cinema, Best Direction (non-feature film), Best Jasari Film, Best Male Playback Singer, Best Music Direction (songs and background music), Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Direction (feature film), Best Feature Film and Best Editing.

Singer Shashaa Tirupati felt “terribly disrespected”.

Shashaa, who bagged the Best Female Playback Singer for “Vaan varuvaan” from “Kaatru Veliyidai”, told IANS: “It’s like the thrill of it is gone now… National Awards and the President go hand-in-hand. For 64 years, they have been given by the President. When you speak of the National Award, automatically people visualise the President handing over the award to the recipient.”

Riddhi Sen, the Best Actor winner for the film “Nagarkirtan”, received the honour from the President. But he found the decision for others unfair.

“This is discrimination and this is absolutely unfair.” (BollywoodCountry)

 

Next Story

House Democrat Issues Subpoenas for U.S. President Donald Trump Tax Returns

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House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., who is demanding President Donald Trump's tax returns for six years, is joined at right by Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., at a hearing on taxpayer noncompliance on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 9, 2019. VOA

A top House Democrat on Friday issued subpoenas for six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, giving Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig a deadline of next Friday to deliver them.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., issued the subpoenas days after Mnuchin refused to comply with demands to turn over Trump’s returns. Mnuchin told the panel he wouldn’t provide Trump’s tax records because the panel’s request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” as Supreme Court precedent requires.

Neal reminded the two Trump appointees in a Friday letter that federal law states that the Internal Revenue Service “shall furnish” the tax returns of any individual upon the request of the chairmen of Congress’ tax-writing committees and that Ways and Means “has never been denied” a request.

Donald Trump
Neal originally demanded access to Trump’s tax returns in early April. VOA

Refusals to comply

The White House and the Democratic-controlled House are waging a multifront battle over investigations into Trump, and the administration has been refusing to comply across the board — refusing to comply with subpoenas for the unredacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller and documents related to the testimony by former White House counsel Donald McGahn.

Neal originally demanded access to Trump’s tax returns in early April. He maintains that the committee is looking into the effectiveness of IRS mandatory audits of tax returns of all sitting presidents, a way to justify his claim that the panel has a potential legislative purpose. Democrats are confident in their legal justification and say Trump is stalling in an attempt to punt the issue past the 2020 election.

FILE - Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee, April 9, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee, April 9, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

In rejecting the request earlier, Mnuchin said he relied on the advice of the Justice Department. He concluded that the Treasury Department is “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.” Mnuchin has also said that Neal’s request would potentially weaponize private tax returns for political purposes.

“While I do not take this step lightly, I believe this action gives us the best opportunity to succeed and obtain the requested material,” Neal said in a statement.

President won’t budge

Trump has privately made clear he has no intention of turning over the records. He is the first president since Watergate scandal of Richard Nixon’s presidency to decline to make his tax returns public, often claiming that he would release them if he were not under audit.

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“What’s unprecedented is this secretary refusing to comply with our lawful … request. What’s unprecedented is a Justice Department that again sees its role as being bodyguard to the executive and not the rule of law,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. “What’s unprecedented is an entire federal government working in concert to shield a corrupt president from legal accountability.”

But the president has told those close to him that the attempt to get his returns was an invasion of his privacy and a further example of what he calls the Democrat-led “witch hunt” — like Mueller’s Russia probe — meant to damage him. (VOA)